First edition title page.
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Silas Marner: The Weaver of Raveloe is the third novel by George Eliot, published in 1861. An outwardly simple tale of a linen weaver, it is notable for its strong realism and its sophisticated treatment of a variety of issues ranging from religion to industrialisation to community.
The novel is set in the early years of the 19th century. Silas Marner, a weaver, is a member of a small Calvinist congregation in Lantern Yard, a slum street in an unnamed city in Northern England. He is falsely accused of stealing the congregation's funds while watching over the very ill deacon. Two clues are given against Silas: a pocket knife, and the discovery in his own house of the bag formerly containing the money. There is the strong suggestion that Silas' best friend, William Dane, has framed him, since Silas had lent his pocket knife to William shortly before the crime was committed. Silas is proclaimed guilty. The woman Silas was to marry breaks their engagement and later marries William. With his life shattered and his heart broken, Silas leaves Lantern Yard and the city.
Marner travels south to the Midlands and settles near the rural village of Raveloe, where he lives alone, choosing to have only minimal contact with the residents. He comes to adore the gold he earns and hoards from his weaving.
The gold is stolen by Dunstan ("Dunsey") Cass, a dissolute younger son of Squire Cass, the town's leading landowner. Silas sinks into a deep gloom, despite the villagers' attempts to aid him. Dunsey disappears, but little is made of this not unusual behaviour, and no association is made between him and the theft.
Godfrey Cass, Dunsey's elder brother, also harbours a secret. He is married to, but estranged from, Molly Farren, an opium-addicted woman of low birth living in another town. This secret prevents Godfrey from marrying Nancy Lammeter, a young woman of high social and moral standing. On a winter's night, Molly tries to make her way to Squire Cass's New Year's Eve party with her two-year-old girl to announce that she is Godfrey's wife and ruin him. On the way, she takes opium and lies down in the snow. The child wanders away and into Silas' house. Silas follows her tracks in the snow and discovers the woman dead. When he goes to the party for help, Godfrey heads to the scene, but resolves to tell no one that Molly was his wife. Molly's death conveniently puts an end to the marriage.
Silas keeps the child and names her Eppie, after his deceased mother and sister, both named Hephzibah. Eppie changes Silas' life completely. Silas has been robbed of his material gold, but has it returned to him symbolically in the form of the golden-haired child. Godfrey Cass is now free to marry Nancy, but continues to conceal the fact of his previous marriage—and child—from her. However, he aids Marner in caring for Eppie with occasional financial gifts. More practical help and support in bringing up the child is provided by Dolly Winthrop, a kindly neighbour of Marner's. Dolly's help and advice assist Marner not only in bringing up Eppie, but also in integrating her into village society.
Sixteen years pass, and Eppie grows up to be the pride of the village. She has a strong bond with Silas, who through her has found a place in the rural society and a purpose in life. Meanwhile, Godfrey and Nancy mourn their own childless state. Eventually, the skeleton of Dunstan Cass—still clutching Silas' gold—is found at the bottom of the stone quarry near Silas' home, and the money is duly returned to Silas. Shocked by this revelation, and coming to the realisation of his own conscience, Godfrey confesses to Nancy that Molly was his first wife and that Eppie is his child. They offer to raise her as a gentleman's daughter, but this would mean Eppie would have to forsake Silas. Eppie politely refuses, saying, "I can't think o' no happiness without him."
Silas revisits Lantern Yard, but his old neighbourhood has been "swept away" and replaced by a large factory. No one seems to know what happened to Lantern Yard's inhabitants. However, Silas contentedly resigns himself to the fact that he now leads a happier existence among his family and friends. In the end, Eppie marries a local boy, Dolly's son Aaron. Aaron and Eppie move into Silas' new house, courtesy of Godfrey. Silas' actions through the years in caring for Eppie have provided joy for everyone, and the extended family celebrates its happiness.
- Silas Marner: a weaver who is betrayed at Lantern Yard by his treacherous friend William Dane, moves away to Raveloe, becomes a miser, and accumulates a small fortune, only to have it stolen by Dunstan Cass. Despite these misfortunes, he finds his faith and virtue by the arrival of young Eppie (daughter of Godfrey Cass).
- Squire Cass, Lord of the Manor of Raveloe.
- Godfrey Cass: eldest son of the local squire, who is being constantly blackmailed by his dissolute brother Dunstan over his secret marriage to Molly. When Molly dies, he feels relief, but in time realizes he must account for his deceit to those he has wronged.
- Dunstan Cass: second eldest son of the local squire. He constantly blackmails his older brother. He has a rotten heart, and steals Silas' gold after accidentally killing his older brother's horse Wildfire.
- Molly Farren: Godfrey's first (and secret) wife, who has a child by him; an opium addict. She dies in the attempt to reveal their relationship and ruin Godfrey, leaving the child, Eppie, to wander into Silas' life.
- Eppie (Hephizibah): daughter of Molly and Godfrey, who is cared for by Silas after the death of her mother. Mischievous in her early years, she grows into a radiant and beautiful young girl devoted to her adoptive father.
- Nancy Cass (née Lammeter): Godfrey Cass' second wife, a morally and socially respectable young woman.
- Priscilla Lammeter, Nancy's plain sister.
- Aaron Winthrop: son of Dolly, who marries Eppie at the end of the novel.
- Dolly Winthrop: mother to Aaron, wife of Ben; godmother to Eppie. Sympathetic to Silas.
- Ben Winthrop, wheelwright
- Mr Snell, landlord of the Rainbow Inn, Raveloe.
- William Dane: William Dane is Silas' former best friend at Lantern Yard. William ultimately betrays Silas by framing him for theft and marrying Silas' fiancée Sarah.
- Sarah: Silas' fiancée in Lantern Yard, who subsequently marries his treacherous friend William Dane.
- Mr. Macey: the clerk at the local church, a tailor.
- Solomon Macey, Mr Macey's brother, a talented violinist.
- Mr Crackenthorpe, rector of Raveloe and a Justice of the Peace.
- Bob Lundy, butcher of Raveloe.
- John Dowlas, farrier of Raveloe.
- Jem Rodney, a local poacher, initially suspected by Silas of stealing his money.
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The major theme of Silas Marner is of course the influence of "pure, natural human relationships," but there are several others. Some of these are never the subject of a direct statement, but constant repetition brings them to the reader's attention, and the novel draws some sort of conclusion about them. One of these themes is the function of religion in society. Another is the use of custom and tradition. There is a more direct consideration, focused on Nancy, of the extent to which "principle" should predominate over sympathy in human relationships. This is closely connected to the question of indulgence versus discipline in human life, as exemplified by the home life of Godfrey and of Nancy. A theme may be mentioned only indirectly and yet be quite explicit in its meaning. One such in Silas Marner is the effect of industrialisation on English society in the nineteenth century. Lantern Yard after the factory has been built is a grimy, dark place full of unhealthy people. There is a sharp contrast between the grim unfriendliness of Lantern Yard and the community spirit of Raveloe, between Silas' life (likened to that of a spinning insect) and the fresh air of the open fields.
In Silas Marner, Eliot combines symbolism with a historically precise setting to create a tale of love and hope. On one level, the book has a strong moral tract: the bad character, Dunstan Cass, gets his just deserts, while the pitiable character, Silas Marner, is ultimately richly rewarded, and his miserliness corrected. The novel explores the issues of redemptive love, the notion of community, the role of religion, the status of the gentry and family, and impacts of industrialisation. While religion and religious devotion play a strong part in this text, Eliot concerns herself with matters of ethics and interdependence of faith and community.
- At least five film adaptations of Silas Marner were released during the silent film era, including the following:
- Silas Marner (Thanhouser Film Corporation, USA; 31 March 1911) with Frank Hall Crane in the title role.
- Le Noël de Silas Marner (Pathé Frères, France; November 1912) (UK; 27 November 1912; as Silas Marner's Christmas).
- Silas Marner (Edison Company, USA; 24 October 1913) with William Langdon West in the title role.
- Silas Marner (Thanhouser Film Corporation, USA; 19 February 1916) with Frederick Warde in the title role.
- Silas Marner (Associated Exhibitors, USA; May 1922) (UK; 25 January 1926) with Crauford Kent in the title role.
- The actor Michael Williams played Marner in a Focus on the Family two-part adaptation for radio; this was to be the last acting role before his death. The production also featured Edward Woodward, Jenny Agutter, Alex Jennings and Timothy Bateson and has subsequently been re-broadcast on BBC Radio 7.
- W. S. Gilbert's play Dan'l Druce, Blacksmith (1876) takes its initial situation–the arrival of a child in a miser's life–from Silas Marner (as noted in the libretto), and has a somewhat similar ending, although the middle section is entirely new.
- The critically acclaimed 1954 Indian film Bangaru Papa, in Telugu, starring S. V. Ranga Rao and Krishna Kumari, is also based on award-winning short story writer Palagummi Padmaraju's loose adaptation of Silas Marner.
- The British composer John Joubert wrote an opera Silas Marner based on the novel in 1961.
- The novel was adapted as Sukhdas in Hindi by the Indian writer Premchand.
- Ben Kingsley played Silas Marner in a 1985 BBC adaptation (rebroadcast in the US in 1987 by Masterpiece Theatre), with Patsy Kensit as the grown-up Eppie.
- The children's TV series Wishbone has an episode with an abridged adaptation.
- Steve Martin wrote, produced, and starred in a 1994 movie adaptation of the novel, titled A Simple Twist of Fate.
- "Silas Marner (1911)". IMDb.com. (Amazon). Retrieved 11 April 2015.
- "SIlas Marner's Christmas (1912)". IMDb.com. (Amazon). Retrieved 11 April 2015.
- "Silas Marner (1913)". IMDb.com. (Amazon). Retrieved 11 April 2015.
- "Silas Marner (1916)". IMDb.com. (Amazon). Retrieved 11 April 2015.
- Silas Marner (1916) remaining reels, Ned Thanhouser of the Thanhouser Film Corporation and Vimeo, retrieved June 26, 2014
- "Silas Marner (1922)". IMDb.com. (Amazon). Retrieved 11 April 2015.
- Illustrated London News. 18 November 1876, page 476
- Stedman, Jane W. (1996). W. S. Gilbert, A Classic Victorian & His Theatre. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-816174-3. p. 141
- Bangaru Papa in Naati 101 Chitralu, S. V. Rama Rao, Kinnera Publications, Hyderabad, 2006, pp. 109–110
- Silas Marner, John Joubert
- John Joubert: composer
- Nagendra (1981). Premchand: an anthology. Bansal. p. 70. OCLC 8668427.
- IMDB listing Retrieved 2015-10-17
- Masterpiece Theater database Retrieved 2015-10-17
- Youtube link Retrieved 2015-10-17
- IMDB listing Retrieved 2015-10-17
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